Students project the future
While rioting students made headlines, Durban’s engineering students shaped our tomorrows
MORE than a 100 fourth-year students at Howard College Campus in Durban last week showed their final year projects, and as always left the observers marvelling at their ingenuity.
The students’ projects range from an automated pet feeder to a telemetry system that can drive any electrical vehicle.
Senior lecturer in Computer Engineering Programmes Dr Thamid Quazi said the projects contributed the most credits towards the student’s honours degree. The project nominated for a national tertiary design competition is a generic platform designed by Robert Mawbey to drive any type of vehicle that is driven by electric motors.
Mawbey said he decided to build a modular system when he designed the telemetrics for the UKZN solar race car, so that he did not need to reinvent the wheel if he wanted to use his system to steer anything from hull-inspecting submarines to aerial drones.
He proved his system during the 2015 Bridgestone Solar Car Challenge and said the radio controls work up to one kilometre. He then spent three weeks and a budget of only R2 000, wrote all software using C#, and built all the hardware using an off-the-shelf tank-track and GPS equipment.
Other projects that may excite investors are: • Shivar Dhurgaduth’s smart spectacles that outline moving objects in real time for partially sighted people; • Ashlin Naicker designed a robotic picker that can be controlled using any Android phone, and can scale up to carry heavy barrels over rough surfaces without spilling the contents; • an app-driven system by Privaan Ramchunder that allows users to allocate power from a solar panel so that it charges only selected devices; • Bandile Mchunu’s induction hot plate that can boil water in suitable plastic bottles using only solar power; and • Saing Maulidi’s permanent magnet synchronous motor that uses lock-up tables to manage exponential torque, and which can turn any diesel truck into a diesel-electric hybrid.
LEFT: Robert Mawbey has a unique, but proven, one-sizefits-all approach to evee control.
RIGHT: Brian Bassett tries to control Ashlin Naicker’s robotic picker.